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Drug Driving

18% of drivers involved in a road death have illegal drugs in their bodies as do 22% of passengers.

Drug driving is the term used to describe anyone who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of any substance (legal or illegal) that is likely to impair their driving ability.

Under Section 107, Schedule 7 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003: (opens in a new window)

  • It's an offence to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of a Controlled Drug.(opens in a new window)  
  • Police Officers have powers to undertake roadside drug tests on drivers.


Road Side Testing

The ’field impairment’ tests used by UK police officers are derived from the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) used by the majority of police forces in the United States.

Police in the UK use five field impairment tests and they are:

  • Examination of pupils. A subject’s pupils are examined and if they are outside the normal range of between 3.0 and 6.5mm this is recorded as abnormal.
  • Romberg test. The Romberg test is a test of the subject’s internal clock. The subject is asked to tilt their head back slightly, close their eyes and estimate the passage of thirty seconds. Results of between 25 and 35 seconds are normal.
  • Walk and turn test. The subject is asked to stand with their right foot in front of the left foot, touching heel to toe. They are asked to take nine steps along the line, turn and walk nine steps back. The subject must count out loud and look at their feet while doing the test. If the subject fails to count out loud, look at their feet, loses balance etc, these failures are recorded.
  • One leg stand test. The subject is asked to stand on one leg with the foot raised 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) parallel to the ground. The subject is told to look at their foot and count out loud.
  • Finger to nose test. The subject is asked to extend the index fingers of both hands and hold them palms facing forward.
  • With the head tilted slightly backwards and eyes closed the subject is asked to touch the tip of the nose with the tip of their finger with the hand indicated by the officer.

If field impairment tests demonstrate that you may have been driving under the influence of drugs, you could be arrested.



Driving under the influence of drugs carries the same penalties as drink driving (opens in a new window) a ban and a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in jail. If a person under the influence of drugs causes a fatal accident, they could face a two-year ban and a maximum of 10 years in jail.


Before you drive

Drugs affect the way you think and behave and this can have a significant impact on your sense of judgment and reaction times. So be smart about drug driving, and think before you get behind the wheel or accept a lift from someone you know isn't in a state to drive.

Always read the label if you're taking prescribed medication. Antihistamines (often used in flu and hayfever remedies) and tranquillisers (used to treat anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders) may significantly affect reaction times and/or cause drowsiness. If the label advises against 'operating heavy machinery', consider it a warning not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. If in doubt, consult your GP.


Bedford Borough Council Road Safety Team      

 telephone (01234) 228336

Email road.safety@bedford.gov.uk

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